Today is Mother’s Day or Mothering Sunday in the UK. I’m not going to write about that subject today, but if you’d like to read a related piece that I wrote for the Baptist Times this week, you can see it HERE.
Perhaps one of the most irritating phrases in common usage is ‘like, you know.’ From nowhere it has in less than a handful of years, morphed into the universal filler phrase and is, you know, like, turning up in every sentence uttered by half the the planet. Some people -especially the young but also those who should know better – appear to be incapable of speaking a sentence without it. Once you’re attuned to its presence it’s very hard not to do two things:
1) count the number of times it’s used in the course of your conversation (I’ve counted it 14 times in less than 10 minutes); or 2) scream and send Stephen Fry round to sort it out. Whilst I appreciate that language has to evolve, I don’t believe including it four times in every sentence is something to be proud of. To the rest of us you simply sound – like, you know – a twerp.
Whilst I may not be guilty of liberally sprinkling my conversation with filler, I am very guilty of the overuse of another maddening word, and so is half of Britain:
‘I’m fine!’ We cheerily proclaim at all who ask. Of course, you may well be fine but I’m guessing that you’re really not because few people truly are. We use ‘fine’ as such a catch-all word don’t we? We use it to mean ‘I’m not explaining it now, I haven’t the time,’ or ‘I’m not telling you anything, because you’re the biggest gossip this side of Saturn.’ Or ‘I’m not telling you because I don’t want to look vulnerable.’ Or perhaps the worst thing: ‘If I tell you how it really is, it’ll take all day, I’ll keep you in gossip for the rest of your natural life and my cheery use of ‘fine’ is all that stands between me and a meltdown.’ Believe me, I’ve been there on the last one. I’ve pretty much been there this week.
But it’s not me that’s been throwing it about. Someone else is batting back ‘I’m fine’ to every enquiry whilst over their shoulder I can quite clearly see that an atomic bomb just dropped on their life. I want to help, but I’m stymied at every turn by the mother of all frustrations: ‘I’m fine’. No you’re flipping well not! I feel like smashing my head repeatedly against a brick wall and writing to David Cameron to ban the use of the phrase forthwith. Mind you, with the bloody-minded nature of British people we’d probably use a banned word all the more. So, to save my own skull, my sanity and the cost of a postage stamp, I decided to go for advice in how to overcome fortress ‘I’m Fine.’ Because when the perimeter wall is 50ft high, the barbed wire on top goes all the way to the sky, they’ve dug a moat and pulled up the drawbridge, there’s only one person who’s getting in there…
My prayer life isn’t very good so this week I took it to a ‘prayer clinic’, got a check-up and took advice on how to pray. It’s clear that pleading, remonstrating and plain old shouting at the situation won’t break this particular stronghold. But God’s very good with impossible cases – he’s got me on his books – so I’m now praying strategically; for him to get in the middle of that situation, parachute right in there – all, you know SAS-like (careful now :)) – and do his stuff. As I understand it, my bit is to stand ready for the catch when the walls come down. And they will.
We have many reasons for batting back an “I’m fine” and mostly they’re for quite the most innocent reasons. But there is nothing to be gained by putting on a front when the rest of us can quite clearly see it all going nuclear behind you. And from now on if you’re not coming out, then I’m sending someone in to get you. So, to save the Almighty getting all in your face, perhaps it would be better to speak another word:
God doesn’t have an app for that, he has something much better. A Jesus.